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1972 Chevrolet Camaro - Fat-Bottom Boogie

Consummate Car Crazy Cranks Cool

Ro McGonegal Sep 5, 2012
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Before we go any further, we’ll tell you flat out that Albert Melchior has three unfinished ’70 Firebirds (two Trans Ams and a Formula 400), a ’70 Z28, this ’72 RS, and two more ’73 Trans Ams. The four working Indians are recumbent in his recreation room, all of them on-the-boards handlers infused with everything from a 535ci displacement, canted valve cylinder heads, and forced air induction to RideTech suspension, big brakes, and six-speed transmissions. He’s got a pussycat cruiser, too, a pristine 51,000-mile ’68 Eldo, a Saleen, and an SS S10. The ’72 Camaro you see here? Man, it almost didn’t happen.

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Al unearthed it in a place called Salmon, Idaho. His original thought: street fighter with a little bit of style. But … “The Pro Touring movement was just gaining steam in early 2006 and I didn’t realize that what I was looking for was a Pro Touring ride.

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“The car was a rust-free superclean shell that an elderly lady had bought to try to draw her grandchildren into visiting her,” Albert says. “Apparently, it worked initially, then the kids got bored and stopped coming. She kept it for about 10 years, all the while meaning to sell it off and never getting around to it.” Let’s call Albert Melchior intrepid. His home is in Ontario, Canada, which isn’t exactly around the corner from Salmon. He went there with the idea that he’d be driving the Camaro to Canada. If you look on a map, you’ll see that Salmon is situated on (designated scenic) Route 93 that mimics the course of the Salmon River.

“On the way out, I almost drove the thing off the highway into the river. The views are incredible … and the car didn’t have a rearview mirror. I was trying to see something I’d passed in the side view when the road made a hard 90-degree right. Let’s just thank God for a lack of traffic and the fact that I was driving conservatively.” So Al didn’t go in the drink. After the sweat dried and his breathing became normal, he stayed on the throttle all the way home.

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Al has been involved with hot cars for quite some time, so he knows who is capable and who flaps gums. His accomplice in the scheme was Rolando Presutto, a 30-year restoration veteran and the director of RP Motorsports in Vaughan, Ontario. Presutto’s guys did everything on the gig list, save for the upholstery and to finish the exterior. They brought the car down to its pure naked, sheetmetal self, panels, and a body shell. Though the car was completed in late summer of 2009, one of those modifications—pie-cutting the rear fender arches to flare them 11/2 inches—is the latest trend (but one that was evident more than 40 years before the advent of mini-tubs). In this instance, it’s been done in order to run a 315-series tire without having to assign mini-tubs; done correctly, it is invisible to most. Pro Touring parlance for cars with such modification is “fat bottom”, not fluffy bottom.

Al says, “More often than not, the car is driven by my son Albert Jr. It’s a wickedly fast street runner and we all have had fun with it, going the distance to shows (Toronto to Watervliet, Michigan, and Carlisle, Pennsylvania) and the Motorstate Challenge at Gingerman.”

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Aside from the fat bottom fenders, the Camaro’s body is ultimately original, as is the engine bay and the interior. There is no billet bling, shaved driprail, or miniature re-creation of the space shuttle. Ultimately, Al put his money underneath his feet, in the all-aluminum big-block and the mechanical components that support it. Yeah, that’s money in the bank.

Engine & Drivetrain

You want an automatic intimidation factor in a normal aspiration motor? Build a big-block. You want to see sheer terror? Build a big big-block and put the icing on it with a Dart aluminum cylinder case. RP sent the hard parts to Astro Machine in Weston, Ontario, for the rudimentary alterations and then RP built the house with premium brands—Callies Magnum XL Ultra Light crankshaft, 6.385-inch Oliver connecting rods, 11.25:1 JE pistons/pins, and Total Seal ring packs. They fixed the bottom end with a Melling pump reworked and custom pickup to accommodate the elaborate aluminum Stef’s six-trap road race pan. A Cloyes Hex-A-Just Timing chain joins the Callies forging with the custom-ground hydraulic camshaft (0.680/0.681 lift, 270/280 duration, 112-degree LS). Pursuant, the 100 percent CNC-milled, port-matched Brodix BB-2 cylinder heads maintain 119cc combustion chambers, 2.25/1.90 valves (0.100-inch longer than stock), 1.650-inch K-Motion valvesprings and COMP retainers and locks. Stout COMP 0.080-wall pushrods poke Jesel 1.8:1 shaft rockers. The feeder is a Holley 1,000hp carburetor on top of a Brodix HV 2000 intake manifold. On top of the feeder is an L88 air cleaner. Ignition is generated by the trusty MSD 6AL box, Pro Billet distributor, HVC coil, and 8.8mm MSD primary wiring. To deal with the smut-laden by-product, a local artisan known as Louch built primary pipes that step from 2 inches to 21/8 inches and then merge with 31/2-inch collectors. Since they refused to compromise the Camaro’s sublime and low-down stance, RP assembled the exhaust system proper with space-saving 31/2-inch Spin Tech ovals and mufflers from Ram Air Restorations. At the wheels, this combination racked a hefty 680 hp and 650 lb-ft of grunt. RP dressed the motor out with a Vintage Air Front Runner system and March pulleys. Output processing begins at the 14-inch aluminum flywheel and McLeod Racing dual-disc clutch assembly beneath the Quick Time bellhousing. A reworked Keisler TKO 600 five-speed feeds torque to the 3.5-inch diameter Dynotech Engineering Services aluminum driveshaft and the Moser 12-bolt holds an Eaton limited-slip differential and 3.42:1 gears.

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Mostly stock here but with some meaningful and noticeable additions. RP hopped up the visuals with a custom instrument bezel, covered it with bird’s eye maple veneer, and loaded the custom Auto Meter gauge cluster. Considering the earthquake engine, the Kenwood stereo provides minimal distraction. T&M Interiors in Toronto broke out the leather and suede and stitched up the modified Audi A4 buckets.


Aside from the fat rear fender modification and the 3-inch cowl hood, the body is absolutely original. Further, the inner fenders are Anvil Auto carbon-fiber replicas (which may have been added after these images were taken). The exterior was refinished at Paint by Pabblo in Woodbridge, Ontario, Sherwin-Williams (GM Code 11) Antique White and corresponding black accents.


Though the Camaro retains the original subframe, the rest of the mechanicals are sympathetic to the cause. The whole is made more rigid with custom frame connectors and a driveshaft loop. Hotchkis leaves drop the rearend 2 inches and are tempered by RideTech coilovers. Competition Products Slide-A-Link bars locate the axle and diminish wheelhop. Body roll is checked by a hollow 7/8-inch diameter Hotchkis bar. On point, a hollow Hotchkis 13/8-inch diameter bar, RideTech coilovers, modified Chevrolet Performance spindles, and a quick-ratio ’79 Trans Am steering box.

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Wheels & Brakes

The GA3R Forgeline hoops look massive if not downright surly. They measure 18x10 and 18x12 and are sealed with 275/35 and 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tarmac erasers. Inside those dusky barrels you can just make out the Wilwood six-piston calipers hugging 13-inch diameter rotors.

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